On Friday, July 26th, the POPCORN Kidz, the endearing new monthly youth program of the Irvington Branch of the People’s Organization for Progress, hosted a moving children’s program that honored the legendary Nelson Mandela!

 The event, held at the Irvington Public Library, was a spotlight of “July’s Black History,” which included Mandela’s birthday. Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918.

The pioneering freedom fighter and the first democratically elected president of the ‘new’ South Africa has been in the news lately because of his health crisis. He had been critically ill just before his 95th birthday. More recent reports have indicated an improvement however.

In South Africa, Mandela’s birthday is called ‘Mandela Day’ and is considered a national holiday. In observation of Mandela’s birth, the nearly four dozen children who participated in the program did their own personal, handmade birthday cards that are being sent to the beloved elder statesman of struggle through his foundation, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory!

The program was a moving family-based teach in where the children, primarily elementary age students, where introduced to important Black freedom fighters whose personal legacies are attached to the month. It began with a libation, the age old African unity ritual which honors “those who have gone on before us,” which feted the heroism of Medger Evers, Patrice Lumumba, Ida B. Wells, Thurgood Marshall and Mary McLeod Bethune, who each had birthdays in July. They were also taught South Africa’s world famous national anthem, Nkosi Sikelei-li Afrika, Zulu for ‘God Bless Africa,’ by area music educator Tamarrah Jones, and a whole lot more!

It is not the first time that the struggle against Apartheid, South Africa’s former system of violent segregation, was spotlighted by this program. In June, the Soweto Uprising, the legendary uprising of Black South African high school students which took place on June 16, 1976, was the focus of the monthly program. In March, in observation of Women’s History, the program spotlighted the late South African music legend Miriam Makeba. Makeba, who was also an important PanAfricanist activist, was born on March 4, 1932.

 The teach-in also took on a personal significance for some of the students because only days two later, regular program participants Justin Perryman and his younger sister Jasmine Perryman, actually helped lead a march of young people for Trayvon Martin!

 “The POPCORN Kidz is a hidden gem in our community that it truly starting to shine thanks to the vision and commitment of our Irvington branch leader Sandra Hayward,” said a beaming Lawrence Hamm, the organization’s founding chairman.

 The next program will take place on Friday, August 30th  at the Irvington Public Library at 2pm. It will focus on the “Black History of August,” and will highlight the March On Washington’s 50th anniversary and the birthday of President Barack Obama. The March On Washington, an unprecedented mass mobilization against segregation, took place on August 28, 1963. President Obama was born on August 4, 1961…


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